This was the second cruise on the Eurodam for DW & I (56, 59). We booked this one because of the great price (cost was less than our 7-day Eastern Caribbean cruise in April) and the itinerary, including the opportunity to tour the WWII beaches in Normandy during the 65th anniversary year of D-Day. We booked an F category guarantee and at embarkation learned that we had been upgraded to a VD category. Turns out we were assigned to cabin VD 4166, which was just down the hall from the cabin we occupied in April. The cruise was unique in that it had overlapping itineraries with folks sailing 21 days, 16 days, 10 days and 4 days. I had known about the "cruise within a cruise" from Dover to Dover in the middle of our 10-day, but not the other variations. It felt like people were coming and leaving quite regularly, requiring multiple lifeboat drills (only for those newly-boarded), disembarkation talks, etc. I did not enjoy this aspect of the cruise and felt that it made things difficult for crew members. I was also not aware of any Mariner brunch or recognition gatherings. Another interesting thing was that Americans were the minority on this sailing. More passengers were from the UK and there was a sizable group of Russians. Not a negative, just different.
I will provide an overview of my impressions of the cruise. As we knew from our April cruise, the Eurodam is a beautiful ship with some unique offerings such as the additional level, the Tamarind restaurant and Silk Den lounge, Canaletto restaraunt and the Lido and Retreat cabanas. On this cruise, the captain was Jeroen van Donselaar (in April we had John Scott). The cruise director was Johnny Quinn, who was fine, but we prefer Johnny Quinn, our CD in April. Hotel Manager was Stan Kuppens (Mark Zeller was HM in April and had told us he would be taking time off to get married). The Eurodam singers and dancers shows in the Mainstage Theatre were the same productions that we had seen in April, so we did not attend those shows. We did see guitarist Justin Miller, both evening and afternoon shows, and while I agree that he is an amazingly talented musician and historian, DW and I both felt that his arrogance was a little off-putting. We stopped in the Piano Bar a few times. I'm sorry for any fans out there, but David Mann is a terrible singer. We very much enjoyed the Adagio Strings (Hungarian) in the Explorer's Lounge before dinners, and Stryker, an excellent piano player in the Crow's Nest after dinners. The Neptunes performed in the Ocean Bar and Vivienne and the Halcats played the Queens Lounge and on deck. One thing that became very obvious this cruise is that there was much more participation in nightlife compared to our April cruise. I give credit to the Europeans - they like to party much later and all of the lounges and the casino were much livelier than what we have previously experienced with HAL. Someone said that the 4-day cruisers probably wanted to make the most of the experiences, sort of like taking a long weekend in Vegas. Anyway, the place was jumpin' most nights. The pub crawls were a hit.
The service by the staff in the stateroom, the common areas, and the dining venues was once again outstanding. Our room steward (Yuri) and his partner did excellent jobs and in my opinion in their overworked positions. We had main (8:00 p.m.) assigned seating in the Upper Rembrandt Dining room, table 301 for eight. Our dining steward, Hery, was perhaps the best dining steward we have experienced on HAL. Our table location was very nice, just on the other side of the upper dining room entry wall. The meals were excellent. I prefer the appetizers and entrees over the salads and desserts with HAL but we were never disappointed with our menu selections. People seemed to adhere to the dress code more on this cruise than on our April Caribbean cruise. I actually saw men turned away from the dining room on formal nights for not wearing jackets. Our tablemates told us that this also happened to them on a formal night in the Pinnacle Grill.
I like to get many of the expenses out of the way prior to the cruise and this time I pre-paid for a number of things. We had a bottle of bon voyage red wine with chocolate covered strawberries in our cabin upon arrival (I had to ask the room steward to bring wine glasses and a corkscrew). I also pre-purchased a 20-pour wine card, a 10 cocktail card and a 20 soda card, as well as our HAL shore excursions, one dinner in the Tamarind and one dinner in the Pinnacle. After our late boarding, I proceeded to the Tamarind to secure lunch reservations for our second sea day.
Wednesday and Thursday, July 1 and 2
We booked our airline flights independently from HAL. Due to storms on the east coast, particularly in Newark, where we were scheduled to fly to from Minneapolis, our flight was delayed for many hours. Although I had scheduled us to arrive in Copenhagen at 7:30 a.m. on our Thursday embarkation day and thought that we would have plenty of "breathing" room, I quickly realized that we were going to be in trouble. As has been stated over and over on these boards and I have always heeded the advice before, save yourself much grief by arriving at your point of departure the night before you sail, especially in foreign ports. Continental offered to re-route us with Air France via Paris and suggested that we should be able to arrive in Copenhagen prior to sailing (I called HAL and they stated that we needed to board by 3:30 p.m.). So we flew to Paris, had a few hours delay there and began considering how we might join the Eurodam at the first port stop in Oslo. Turns out we arrived in Copenhagen but our luggage remained in Paris. After dealing with the lost luggage counter (with three other couples, two of whom were also on the cruise), we rushed to the ship by taxi. Made it onboard by 4:15 p.m. during the lifeboat drill. So no luggage other than our carry-ons (mine consisted of a small backpack with my two cameras). Air France said that the luggage would be shipped to Oslo, our first port, but if it did not arrive in time, the next port for delivery would be Amsterdam (after a sea day).
We had dinner in the dining room that evening and proceeded to the ship store after dinner to buy a few t-shirts. Even though we did not book air through HAL, the Front Desk staff were very helpful in taking our luggage information and told us that they would make daily calls for updates on the two suitcases. They gave us toilet kits with a few essentials, offered free express laundry service, ordered rental formal wear for both of us at no charge. As my camera battery chargers were in my luggage, the ship photo staff were also very nice in recharging my batteries overnight whenever needed. I won't keep going on in detail, but I have to say that in checking our luggage situation daily, I had the opportunity to interact with all of the Front Desk personnel in the course of the cruise and as a result witnessed some of what they experience in the way of a variety of issues, often loudly expressed by angry passengers. I would not want their jobs.
Friday, July 3 (Oslo)
We had breakfast in the Lido prior to arrival in Oslo and it was crowded. We took the Best of Oslo HAL excursion. We had been concerned about not having jackets or sweaters due to lost luggage, but as it turned out Oslo, which we expected be our coolest port, was experiencing record highs. The record for the date was 95 F and the high on Friday hit 94 F. The Vigelandsparken was the highlight of the tour. Vigeland's work is amazing. We returned to the ship and learned that our luggage was not in Oslo.
Saturday, July 4 (Sea Day)
Had breakfast in the Lido at an earlier time and avoided the crowds. It was crowded again in the Lido for lunch. They held a 4th of July picnic around the Lido pool with all kinds of burgers, bbq chicken, ribs, steaks and lots of red, white and blue decorations. We had the first formal night dinner and appreciated the provided formalwear. We had before dinner martinis in the Explorer's Lounge and enjoyed the Adagio Strings. When we returned to our cabin we had a message from the front desk stating that our luggage had been located and should be in Amsterdam.
Sunday, July 5 (Amsterdam)
We enjoyed room service breakfast. Having been to Amsterdam several times, we decided to take the Windmills and Edam excursion. Edam was a lovely city and it was a beautiful, quiet Sunday morning as we strolled through the village. The windmills at Zaanse Schans were picturesque and we enjoyed our excursion day. After returning to the ship we learned that the luggage had not arrived. Underdresed, we had dinner in the Tamarind Sunday evening and it was once again excellent. One of our servers, Gemelia, remembered us from our Tamarind dinner in April. We had before-dinner drinks in the Silk Den and after-dinner drinks in the Explorer's Lounge. No luggage in Amsterdam.
Monday, July 6 (Dover)
A number of people were disembarking and later new passengers were boarding for their 4-day cruise, Dover to Dover. We took the Leeds Castle & Canterbury excursion. It was another very nice excursion as we saw much of the Kent countryside and villages (Lenham, Sandwich, Deal). Having resolved that our luggage might be never be found, we went shopping instead of Cathedral viewing in Canterbury. Returned to the ship and still no luggage but we at least had new clothing. After dinner we enjoyed listening to Skylar play piano in the Crow's Nest.
Tuesday July 7 (Zebrugge)
We arrived in Zebrugge under very rainy and windy conditions. We took the ship's shuttle to Blankenburg, then boarded the train to Bruges, one of our favorite cities.
We purchased an umbrella and a raincoat for DW, then spent the day in Bruges.
After returning to the ship, while DW was in the shower before the second formal dinner, I had a call from the front desk informing me that one suitcase (DW's) had arrived and was being delivered to our cabin. I was so pleased that it was hers rather than mine.
So we proceeded to formal dinner in the dining room with DW relieved to be in her own formal dress and shoes.
Wednesday, July 8 (Cherbourg)
We had room service breakfast prior to our arrival in Cherbourg. We then met up with two other couples that we had arranged to join us on a private tour of the Normandy WWII beaches , American cemetery and the surrounding areas. Our tour guide from Overlord Tours was waiting for us on the dock and we had a full 9-hour day with the best guide we have ever experienced in all of our travels. It was such moving, educational and overall wonderful day with beautiful weather. Dinner in the dining room again that night and after-dinner drinks in the Crow's Nest with Stryker playing piano. No second suitcase.
Thursday, July 9 (St. Peter Port, Guernsey)
This was a tender port, very similar to a previous experience off the Prinsendam in Jersey. We wandered throughout St. Peter Port. It was quaint, had many flower displays, and we had a nice lunch in town. That night we had dinner in the Pinnacle Grill. The steaks were excellent and the Pinnacle is a lovely setting for a special occasion, but we prefer the service in the Tamarind. I gave up on my suitcase.
Friday, July 10 (Dover)
Many were disembarking from the 4-day cruise. We took the HAL shuttle to Dover Castle. We had debated whether or not to visit the castle and we were very pleased that we did. It was excellent and we spent over four hours on the grounds.
We took the WWII tunnels tour and had English tea and scones for lunch. We had heard mixed reviews of Dover as a port and Dover Castle in particular, but we really enjoyed the castle and would highly recommend it. We had dinner in the dining room for the third formal night. Went to hear guitarist Justin Miller in the Mainstage Theatre after dinner. Seas were becoming rough overnight.
Saturday, July 11 (At Sea)
Rough seas continued in the morning and some were seasick. We had breakfast in the Lido, which was much less crowded. I was informed that my suitcase had indeed been lost for several days (not visible in the luggage retrieval computer system) but had been found and as it turned out had remained in Oslo for the duration of the cruise. I was assured that it would be in Copenhagen when we disembarked on Sunday. We had a nice lunch in the Tamarind and our final dinner in the dining room.
Sunday, July 12 (Copenhagen)
After breakfast in the Lido we awaited disembarkation on our balcony. I was asked to stop at the front desk on our way out and we were then accompanied by the office manager who had called down to have my suitcase brought to the bottom of the gangplank. It was there with a HAL rep and we proceeded to take a taxi to the Copenhagen Airport Hilton. We were allowed to check in to our room even though it was only 10:00 a.m. Although this hotel is at the airport and a distance from city center, it was the nicest hotel we have experienced in Copenhagen. It is truly a five-star hotel conveniently connected to the terminals (air, train and metro) by walkway. They even have an airport kiosk in the hotel lobby where we printed our boarding passes for our flight. We settled in the room, purchased Metro tickets at the hotel desk and then took the Metro back to city center (about a 12-14 min. ride at very reasonable round trip price). We spent the rest of the day and evening along the Stroget, Nyhavn, and all around the city on another beautiful Sunday. We happened upon an open-air jazz festival and enjoyed the music of a Danish New Orleans style band before returning to the hotel by Metro.
Monday, July 13 (Copenhagen)
We had an excellent breakfast provided at the hotel restaurant, then checked out and strolled with our luggage over to our terminal. The flights back home via Amsterdam were uneventful and our luggage was still with us when we arrived in Minneapolis. An unplanned bonus for me was that I returned home with a suitcase full of clean clothes!
It was yet another excellent cruising experience with HAL. We of course learned a few things with the lost luggage situation. Number one - as I mentioned before that we already knew, it is wise to arrive a day early. Number two - we learned that we can get by with much less than we normally pack. Number three - in the future we will put in a few more things in our carry-ons "just in case." I have mailed my delayed luggage claim form and receipts to Air France and we will await the reimbursement process. We're just thankful that our luggage was recovered with all of our belongings intact.
Our overall impression of the Eurodam as a nice ship remains unchanged, but we did feel a bit more crowded, especially in the Lido, on this cruise compared to our April sailing and we do prefer the smaller HAL ships with the Prinsendam being our favorite.